An L-1 non-immigrant visa enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive, manager, or specialized knowledge employee from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company with a newly established U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States.
General Qualifications of the L-1 Employer and Employee
To qualify for L-1 classification, the employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company
- Parent – U.S. company owns the majority of the foreign company
- Subsidiary – U.S. company is owned the majority by the foreign company
- Affiliate – U.S. company and foreign company are owned and controlled by the same parent company or individual
- Branch Office – The U.S. operation is a branch office of the foreign company, or vice versa.
- Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.
Doing business means the regular, systemic, and continuous provision of goods and/or service between the affiliated companies.
To qualify, the named employee must also:
- Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad full-time for at least one continuous year with the past three immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States
- The employment abroad must be in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity.
- Be seeking to enter the U.S. to provide service in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity for one of the affiliated companies.
Executive capacity generally refers to the employee’s ability to:
- Direct the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
- Establish the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
- Exercise wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
- Receive only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
Managerial capacity generally refers to the ability of the employee to:
- Manage the organization or a department or subdivision of the company
- Supervise and control the work of professional employees
- Manage an essential function or component of the company
For companies that have been in business for less than a year in the United States, the employer must also show that:
- The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the office;
- The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition
Period of Stay
Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1A employees, extensions of stay may be granted in increments of two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years in the U.S. For all L-1B employees, extensions of stay may be granted in increments of two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years in the U.S.
Family of L-1 Intra-Company Transfers
Transferring employees may be accompanied or followed by spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Spouses of L-1 visa holders are eligible to work in the U.S.
Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:
- The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;
- The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
- The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations meet one of the following criteria:
- Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
- Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
- Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1A or L-1B classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States by applying directly for a visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad, without having to file an individual petition with USCIS.